Andrea Frierson's ME & ELLA, Valentine to the 'First Lady of Song', Opens Tonight at York Theatre Company

Andrea Frierson's ME & ELLA, Valentine to the 'First Lady of Song', Opens Tonight at York Theatre CompanyThe York Theatre Company, dedicated to the development of new musicals and preserving musical gems from the past, presents the 2017 summer New2NY Series presentation of the new musical Me & Ella, written and performed by Andrea Frierson (Once on This Island, The Lion King), direction by the Tony Award-winning team of Murphy Cross and Paul Kreppel (Jay Johnson: The Two and Only), with music direction and arrangements by Ron Abel (Hazel, A Musical Maid in America, "Happily Divorced").

The limited engagement of Me & Ella will play 11 performances only, July 15 through 23, 2017 at The York Theatre Company at Saint Peter's (619 Lexington Avenue, entrance on East 54th Street, just east of Lexington Avenue). Opening Night is July 16, 2017 at 7:00 p.m.

Set against the restless backdrop of the 20th Century and the lush serenity of the Ella Fitzgerald songbook, Broadway veteran Andrea Frierson's Me & Ella is a valentine to the "First Lady of Song." Ms. Frierson's personal storytelling and song stylings provide a loving glimpse into why Ella's music, heart and determination to overcome the challenges in her life and career continue to inspire. Me & Ella was featured last season as part of the York's Developmental Reading Series and commemorates the centennial of the legendary songstress.

The York's New2NY series is similar to its Musicals in Mufti series of simply-staged concert performances of musical gems from the past. However, New2NY-as its name indicates-focuses on new musicals, providing a stage between developmental lab and full production. Previous shows in the series have included In Transit (which opened on Broadway last season), The Times, Larry Grossman's Compose Yourself!, and this season's Mark Felt: Superstar and How to Be an American!

The performance schedule for Me & Ella is Saturday, July 15 at 2:30 p.m.* & 8:00 p.m., Sunday, July 16 at 2:30 p.m.* & 7:00 p.m., Wednesday, July 19 & Thursday, July 20 at 2:30 p.m.* & 7:00pm p.m., Friday, July 21 at 8:00 p.m., Saturday, July 22 at 2:30 p.m.* & 8:00 p.m., and Sunday, July 23 at 2:30 p.m. (*audience discussions follow these matinee performances).

Tickets are on sale now for York Theatre Company Members only. Tickets for Me & Ella for the general public go on sale June 23, 2017 and are priced at $45-$50 ($31.50 for Members - a savings of up to 35%). Tickets may be purchased online at www.yorktheatre.org, by calling (212) 935-5820, or in person at the box office at the York Theatre Company at Saint Peter's (619 Lexington Avenue, entrance on East 54th Street, just east of Lexington Avenue), Monday through Friday (12:00 p.m. - 6:00 p.m.).

Further summer events at The York include a Special Summer Musical in Mufti (August 5-13) - a single show to be announced shortly - and the ongoing lobby exhibition "SCENIC DESIGNS BY James Morgan: A Rather Random Retrospective Celebrating 40+ Years at The York Theatre Company and Elsewhere." All works in the exhibit are available for purchase and to be autographed.

York Theatre Company offers the York! Membership Program, an exclusive membership package for as low as $75.00-with elite benefits that include up to 35% off tickets to York Theatre Productions, exclusive Member pre-sale opportunities, 50% off on all lobby concessions, 20% off on all lobby merchandise, in addition to special Member-only receptions. The York also offers a York Plus! Membership Program with additional perks, including complimentary tickets to Mainstage productions and invites to several VIP-only presentations throughout the season.

York Memberships can be purchased online at www.yorktheatre.org/membership, or by visiting the York Theatre Company Box Office (Citicorp Building, entrance on East 54th Street, just east of Lexington Avenue), or by calling the Box Office at (212) 935-5820 during regular business hours (Monday through Friday, 12:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.). For additional information, visit www.yorktheatre.org.

ABOUT THE ARTISTS:

Andrea Frierson is a two-time Helen Hayes Award nominee and has performed leading roles on Broadway in The Lion King, Once on This Island (Erzulie, Goddess of Love, original cast), Marie Christine at Lincoln Center Theater, George Wolfe's Bring in 'Da Noise/Funk, Julie Taymor's Juan Darien: A Carnival Mass at Lincoln Center Theater and at the Edinburgh Festival, For Colored Girls... (original Broadway production), and A Christmas Carol at Madison Square Garden (original cast). Regional Theatre credits include Me & Ella (Downstairs Cabaret Theatre), Show Boat (Goodspeed Opera House), Cymbeline (Utah Shakespearean Festival), The Duchess of Malfi (Shakespeare Theatre Company), A New Brain (Studio Theatre, Washington, DC), Dr. Charlotte in Graciela Daniele's production of Falsettos (Hartford Stage Co.), Aretha Franklin/ Tina Turner in Beehive! (Arena Stage & The Village Gate), and Tintypes (South Coast Rep.). Off-Broadway, Andrea performed the role of Dr. Charity in Above Hell's Kitchen with Jonathan Spottiswoode (NYMF), as well as the role of "Grace" in the solo theatre piece by the same name, written by Kirsten Childs and Charlayne Woodard (Inner Voices, TBG Theatre).

Television appearances include "Star Search" (five-time winner/semi-finalist), Ms. Melody on "Allegra's Window" (series regular, Nickelodeon), "Elementary" on CBS (2017), as well as a current episode of the Amazon TV series "Red Oaks." She was also featured in an Emmy award-winning episode of the FX comedy series "Louie."

Andrea's first play with music, Lady Be Good, was directed by Jeff Calhoun in a five-day workshop at Lincoln Center Theatre, and her musical Soon of a Mornin' was an invited show in the 2005 NYMF Festival and premiered at The Lion Theatre at Theatre Row. Her play Houston was featured in the "Going to the River Festival" at EST, and most recently her short play No Mockingbirds on Fridays was featured in the Articulate Theatre Company's "Articulating the Arts" Festival. Andrea is a NYSCA grant recipient, a Library of Congress award winner, a 2008 Dramatists Guild Fellow, and a graduate of the Academy for Classical Acting, the Shakespeare Theatre Company's MFA program. She is thrilled to be returning to the York Theatre, where Me & Ella was featured last season as part of their Developmental Reading Series.

Ron Abel (Music Direction and Arrangements) is an award-winning composer, producer, and musical director who has worked with everyone from opera diva Jessye Norman to pop diva Taylor Dayne. He has created nightclub and concert acts for stars including Lucie Arnaz, Michele Lee, Shirley Jones, and Valarie Pettiford. Ron has also been seen on Fran Drescher's TVLand series "Happily Divorced" playing himself! He has written the scores for the award-winning musicals Twist of Fate and Rockwell and is currently developing Hazel, A Musical Maid in America, Bricktop, and Reintroducing Laurette Bishop.

Murphy Cross and Paul Kreppel (Directors) have appeared on and Off-Broadway (A Chorus Line, Bubbling Brown Sugar, Pal Joey, Godspell, My Mother's Italian..., Alice in Concert). Their film and television credits span the decades from "Laverne & Shirley," and "Taxi" to "That '70's Show" and "ER" to "Criminal Minds" and "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend." They have also directed for television and film. Wetrock Entertainment was formed in 2001 to focus on the creation of projects which entertain and inspire through the theatrical arts. Together they have garnered various awards including the prestigious Tony Award, L.A. Ovation Award, New England's IRNE and a Lucille Lortel nomination for co-creating/directing/producing Jay Johnson: The Two and Only!, another Ovation Award for producing The Big Voice: God or Merman? and various awards and nominations for directing, producing and choreographing. They are currently developing a musical First Kids by Abraham Tetenbaum and Norman L. Berman and SEEN, David Schechter's groundbreaking personal odyssey.

The York Theatre Company is the only theatre in New York City-and one of very few in the world-dedicated to developing and fully producing new musicals and preserving neglected, notable shows from the past. For over four decades, York's intimate, imaginative style of producing both original and classic musicals has resulted in critical acclaim and recognition from artists and audiences alike. Under the guidance of Producing Artistic Director James Morgan since 1997, the York has focused on new musicals in its Mainstage Series-most of them world, American, or New York premieres-by some of the field's most esteemed creators, and has also helped launch the careers of many talented new writers. Over 35 cast recordings from York Theatre Company productions are now available on CD, including its acclaimed revival of Closer Than Ever (2013 Off-Broadway Alliance Award for Best Revival); commercial transfers of such York premieres as The Musical of Musicals (The Musical!), Souvenir (Tony Award Nomination for actress Judy Kaye), and Jolson & Company, and revivals of Pacific Overtures and Sweeney Todd (four Tony Nominations including Best Revival) have all showcased the importance of the York and its programs. Recent New York Premieres have included Marry Harry, A Taste of Things to Come, Rothschild &Sons, and Cagney, which transferred Off-Broadway to the Westside Theatre with the original York cast and ran for over 500 performances.

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